“New York” by George Bellows
“New York” by George Bellows is a large painting that captures the essence of modern life in New York City in 1911.
The view looks uptown toward Madison Square from Broadway and 23rd Street, but Bellows drew on several commercial districts to create an imaginary composite.
His focus was to show the crowds and traffic to convey a city’s hectic pace. The white on the street amongst the shadows are the remains of a snowfall lending light below to the dark shadows.
Bellows assembled all of these diverse elements of New York into one scene. As one critic commented:
“Trucks are darting through the crowd.
Men and women are hurrying across the streets,
trolleys are clanging their way in and out,
a policeman is keeping people from being run over,
you feel the rush; you hear the noise,
and you wish you were safely home.”
Bellows left Ohio State in 1904, just before he was to graduate, and moved to New York City to study art. Bellows became a student of Robert Henri, who was teaching at the New York School of Art.
Bellows eventually became associated with Henri’s “The Eight” and the Ashcan School, a group of artists who advocated painting contemporary American society in all its forms.
Bellows’ urban New York scenes depicted working-class people and neighborhoods’ chaos. From 1907 through 1915, he executed a series of paintings depicting New York City.
Bellows developed his strong sense of light and visual texture, painting stark contrasts between city structures’ rough and grimy surfaces.
His New York landscapes are characterized by dark atmospheres, through which the human figures vividly move with a strong sense of motion and direction.
In 1898, the modern City of New York was formed with the consolidation of Brooklyn, the County of New York, the County of Richmond, and the western portion of the County of Queens.
The opening of the subway in 1904 helped bind the new city together. During the first half of the 20th century, the city became a world center for industry, commerce, and communication.
The economic boom generated the construction of skyscrapers competing in height and creating an identifiable skyline.
New York became the most populous urbanized area in the world in the early 1920s, overtaking London. The metropolitan area surpassed the 10 million mark in the early1930s, becoming the first megacity in human history.
New York emerged from World War II unscathed as the world’s leading city, with Wall Street leading America’s place as the world’s dominant economic power.
The United Nations Headquarters was completed in 1952, solidifying New York’s global geopolitical influence. The rise of abstract expressionism in the city also precipitated New York’s displacement of Paris as the art world’s center.
- Title: New York
- Artist: George Bellows
- Date: 1911
- Medium: Oil on canvas
- Dimensions: Height: 106.7 cm (42 ″); Width: 152.4 cm (60 ″)
- Category: American Artist
- Museum: National Gallery of Art, DC
George Bellows (1882 – 1925) was an American realist painter known for his bold depictions of urban life in New York City.
Bellows was part of the Ashcan School, an artistic movement in the United States during the early 20th century.
Best known for works portraying scenes of daily life in New York, often in the city’s poorer neighborhoods. The movement has been seen as symbolic of the spirit of political rebellion of the period.
- Name: George Wesley Bellows
- Born: 1882 – Columbus, Ohio USA
- Died: 1925 (aged 42) – New York City, NY USA
- Nationality: American
- Movement: Ashcan School, American realism
- Notable Works:
George Bellows’s New York
“The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.”
– George Bellows
Photo Credit: 1) George Bellows [Public domain]